Trump’s Chances Of Winning |Presidency Hinge on Florida

     TAMPA (CN) — Florida, one of nine battleground states that could decide the presidential election, should be one of the more winnable states for Donald Trump, a part-time resident.
     The state’s Republican governor, onetime Tea Party favorite Rick Scott, has been a vocal supporter of Trump, and Republicans have controlled both chambers of the Legislature in Tallahassee for 20 years.
     But despite how favorable Trump’s odds of a win in Florida look in light of that history, a series of missteps and provocations of Hispanic and other key voting groups in the state could derail his White House bid.
     According to the latest poll of the Sunshine State, conducted last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Clinton leads Trump in Florida 44 percent to 42 percent, with 14 percent of likely voters describing themselves as either undecided or supporting one of the third-party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
     The poll, which was conducted by phone Aug. 22 through 24, and had the participation of 625 registered Florida voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
     But the seriousness of Trump’s challenges in Florida were placed in sharp relief Monday, when a series of polls in other battleground states, conducted by Emerson College, showed him down by five points to Clinton in Michigan, down three points to her in Pennsylvania, and in a statistical tie with her in Ohio all of the polls suggesting the GOP candidate’s ballyhooed “rust belt strategy” for winning the presidency has yet to bear fruit.
     In response to his sobering reality, the Trump campaign on Monday rolled out a $10 million advertising blitz in several battleground states among them Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa and Nevada depicting hard-pressed workers in failing communities, and claiming that an America would be “more of the same, but worse” with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the White House.
     The ad, entitled “Two Americas: Economy,” goes on to contrast these scenes with a vision of an America under Trump, an alternative reality in which more people find good-paying jobs and enjoy better, more contented lives.
     On its face, the message is not new repeating themes the Trump campaign and that of other Republicans have traded on for weeks if not months and it is unclear how convincing it will be to either undecided voters, or those the GOP hopes can be pried loose from the Democratic contender.
     The Mason-Dixon poll found the race in Florida has thus far coalesced along traditional demographic lines.
     Clinton leads among registered Democrats, 83 percent to 7 percent; women, 51 percent to 37 percent; blacks, 91 percent to 5 percent; and Hispanics, 63 percent to 27 percent.
     Trump is ahead among Republicans, 78 percent -10 percent; men, 47 percent to 36 percent; non-Hispanic whites, 54 percent to 29 percent; and those who identify themselves as politically-unaffiliated, 44 percent to 30 percent.
     Geographically, the poll found Clinton leads in Southeast Florida, 56 percent to 31 percent; while Trump is strong in Northern Florida, leading his Democratic rival 52 percent to 33 percent, and in Southwest Florida, where he’s ahead 52 percent to 35 percent.
     That means within the state the battle for hearts, minds and all-important votes will be along the I-4 corridor in Central Florida, where Trump leads Clinton 46 percent to 42 percent, except in the Tampa Bay region, where Clinton holds the edge, 44 percent to 40 percent.
     Given the current sharp geographic and demographic divides within the state, the GOP standard-bearer appears to believe his best chance to upend Clinton’s hopes in Florida is to chip away at her support among Hispanic voters.
     According to the Broward County-based Hispanic Unity Florida, a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrants settle in South Florida, new arrivals to the state from the Caribbean and Latin America have become “self sufficient, productive and civically engaged.”
     Cuban-Americans make up the largest Hispanic group in Florida, with more than 1 million now calling the state their home.
     Puerto Ricans are second, followed by significant numbers of Nicaraguans, Colombians and Venezuelans.
     Since 2012, Florida has added roughly 436,000 new voters, according to the political forecasting website, FiveThirtyEight.com. And Hispanics account for about 55 percent of that increase.
     However, the fastest growing group of new Hispanic voters in the Florida is Mexicans, the population most angered by Trump’s assertions that he’s going to build “a huge wall” between the U.S. and their homeland, and deport an estimated 11 million Mexicans who’ve come to the states illegally without offering them any path whatsoever to citizenship.
     Trump reiterated those comments while campaigning in Florida last week, but also suggested during a subsequent interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News from Austin, Texas, that he might be moderating his position.
     “There could be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said.
     Then, late Sunday, Trump announced on Twitter that he will deliver a detailed speech on Wednesday in Arizona in which he’ll clarify and explain his proposal to crack down on illegal immigration.
     The speech is not without its risks. If he does significantly alter his campaign trail rhetoric, he’ll improve his chances of garnering the support of Hispanics in Florida and elsewhere. At the same time, he could wind up turning off his core supporters, those who turn out by the thousands for his rallies and chant, “Build the wall; Build the wall,” whenever he mentions the 35-foot tall border pediment he’s said he’ll build “and make Mexico pay for it.”
     On Sunday, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and other surrogates made the rounds of the morning talk shows, insisting that the candidate is not wavering on the immigration issue, but at the same time suggesting that his policy will be humane.
     However, they did not seek to bridge any of the apparent inconsistencies in those positions, a reflection perhaps, of Trump’s own unsettled convictions on the issue.
     A day after he told Hannity he may be “softening” on the immigration question, he reflexively told CNN that he will under no circumstances grant any kind of legal status to illegal immigrants, and that the only way they would be welcome in the country is if “they leave … and come back.”
     Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, suggested that because Hispanics comprise the largest minority community in Florida, how Trump reconciles himself with these voters could be the difference between winning and losing.
     “[Florida] is a big deal,” Brown said by phone from Connecticut. “It has more electoral votes than any other state except California and Texas … Florida is the biggest state in the country right now.”
     “In a very practical sense, it is difficult for him to win without Florida,” he said.

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